Arches National Park Travel Guide

USA  #8 in Best U.S. National Parks
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Courtesy of lightphoto/Getty Images

Why Go To Arches National Park

Visiting Arches National Park is like visiting another planet, one with thousands of natural sandstone arches, red rocks and landforms in amazing configurations, and light that seems to change every moment. The way the shadows play across the arches makes the park especially intriguing for photographers, who are drawn to capturing its enchanting vistas at dawn and dusk in particular. But Arches National Park is not just a shutterbug's paradise.

Sitting 5 miles northwest of Moab, Utah, the park boasts 26 miles of scenic road and hikes for every level of fitness. Hikers can choose from a wide variety of trails, from short 20-minute walks to Balanced Rock and the Double Arch, to more remote and challenging treks through the Fiery Furnace and up to Delicate Arch. When you need to come back down to Earth, simply look up: the Colorado Plateau is home to some of the darkest skies in the contiguous 48 United States, yielding impressive views of the Milky Way.

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The U.S. News & World Report travel rankings are based on analysis of expert and user opinions. Read more about how we rank vacation destinations.

Best of Arches National Park

Arches National Park Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Arches National Park is April through May and September through October, when daytime temperatures average about 60 to 80 degrees. In the summer, temperatures can exceed 100 degrees, which can make exploring the park's trails very uncomfortable. In late summer, violent storm cells often cause flash floods which can be quite dangerous if you get caught unaware. Winter can be a lovely time to visit, with fewer crowds, though occasional snow and ice can make trails slippery. In addition, there are no ranger programs offered at that time. However, the visitor center is open daily.

Weather in Arches National Park

Switch to Celsius/MM
Average Temperature (°F)
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28
64
35
71
42
82
51
93
60
100
67
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66
88
55
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56
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45
23
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Average Precipitation (in)
0.45
0.39
0.33
0.75
0.78
0.47
0.86
1.02
0.96
0.96
0.59
0.71
Jan
Feb
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See details for When to Visit Arches National Park

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

  • Pay to play A vehicle pass to the park costs $25; an individual pass – for a pedestrian on a bicycle or on foot – costs $10. Each pass is valid for seven consecutive days. To save some time at the entrance gate, pay your admission fee in advance online. Just make sure you print the receipt and bring it with you.
  • Go early or late If you want to avoid a long wait at the park entrance, arrive between 7 and 8 a.m. or between 3 and 5 p.m. (or even earlier or later on weekends when the park remains open).
  • Expect parking headaches With more than 1.4 million annual visitors, Arches is a busy park. In high season (May to October), expect limited parking at the park's top attractions.
  • Strategize If you're limited on time, the National Park Service recommends driving to the Windows Section or the Delicate Arch, two of the park's most popular attractions.

How to Save Money in Arches National Park

  • Visit on an entrance-free day All national parks offer free admission on select days of the year, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first day of National Park Week (in April) and Veterans Day, among others.
  • Camp out With campsites starting at $25 a night, roughing it can save you a bundle. The Devils Garden Campground is 18 miles from the park entrance. Book well in advance, though, as spaces fill up fast.
  • Pack a picnic There are several areas to picnic in the park, including next to the visitor center, across the road from Balanced Rock and at the Delicate Arch Viewpoint. These have picnic tables and restrooms nearby. Some also have fire grates. 

What to Eat

There are no restaurants or lodges in Arches National Park, so you'll need to bring your own food or plan to dine in neighboring Moab, Utah, about 5 miles from the park entrance. There are several places to picnic throughout the park, so plan ahead if you want to eat with Arches as your backdrop. You’ll find tables near the visitor center, the Delicate Arch Viewpoint and across the road from Balanced Rock.

All types of cuisine, from American to Thai, can be found in Moab. For a casual meal, the Moab Diner and Ice Cream Shoppe is a local favorite thanks to its burgers, shakes and reasonable prices. Another highly recommended restaurant is the Desert Bistro, located in a charming converted adobe house. The menu changes regularly with the season, but diners can count on seafood flown in from the coast (east or west), handmade pastas, and organic meats. Meanwhile, the Moab Brewery is a fun spot to try a local brew and dine on pub food.

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Getting Around Arches National Park

The best way to get around Arches National Park is by car. There is no public transportation inside Arches National Park, though commercial tours are offered by companies in Moab, Utah, which sits about 5 miles southeast of the park entrance. Visitors can also ride bikes in the park, though there are no bike lanes or shoulders, so this is more of an option for experienced cyclists. The entrance to the park is north of the town of Moab.

Most travelers fly into Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT), about 110 miles east of the park entrance in Colorado, or into Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), about 230 miles north of the park entrance. Rental cars are readily available at either airport.

Photos

Arches National Park
Arches National Park
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According to recent visitors, Delicate Arch is simply magical at night and it's worth sticking around to see the stars come out.

Jason Corneveaux/Getty Images

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